Western Adventures: Roaring Mountain to Old Faithful

Bison calf

June 5th…I continued south from Mammoth Hot Springs towards Norris Junction. While I didn’t have a ton of time to stop on this trip, I wanted to include a few of my favorite roadside pullouts en route towards Norris:

  • Sheepeater Cliff: great picnic area where you can view a unique columnuar basalt geologic features.

Obsidian Cliff: A ‘glass mountain’ of volcanic obsidian glass – made from ash. This obsidian was long quarried for arrowheads and traded throughout the Native American trade routes.

Roaring Mountain – a mountain of steam that could have stepped off the page of a Tolkien novel. This fumaroles on this mountain constantly emit steam and rumbles with a low roar.

The twenty mile road south from Mammoth to Norris Junction winds through high meadows cradled by the Gallatin Mountains to the west. The occasional rush of steam pummels roadside as lone thermal features are scattered throughout this area of the park. Most of Mammoth Hot Springs thermal features are powered by hot water traveling underground from Norris Hot Springs.

Norris is the hottest thermal basin in the park. It is hometo the world’s largest geyser – Steamboat. We’ll explore Norris in a future post. It is definitely worth stopping for the hour long walk around Norris as you head south from Mammoth.

As I reached Norris Junction, I continued south towards Madison Junction.

The road from Norris to Madison traverses through a confluence of twisty mountain roads and the lush meadows of the Gibbon River.

A few highlights from Norris to Madison:

  • Gibbon Meadows – an ideal spot to scope out wildlife, especially at dusk. I took the picture of the Bison Calf in Gibbon Meadows area
  • Gibbon Thermal Basin: includes Artist Paint Pots and Chocolate Pots – a short and scenic hike takes you to both features
  • Monument Geyser Basin – a hard, but short hike to top of mountain where you’ll discover the a hidden thermal basin
  • Beryl Spring
  • Gibbon Falls:

Gibbon Falls are located right off the Lower Loop road with easy access for a great photo op. The rain cleared for a few minutes, allowing me to take a couple of photographs while I enjoyed the thundering beauty of this waterfall. They tumble 84 feet into the canyon chasm below.

The rain began to fall heavily as I reached Madison Junction (nearly the Madison campground).

Heading east towads Old Faithful, this is the heart of Yellowstone’s geyser country. Yellowstone is over half of the world’s geothermal features including 500 geysers. The majority are concentrated in Yellowstone’s Lower and Upper Geyser Basins.

The road from Madison to Old Faithful, passes through plumes of towering steam as you the road cuts through Lower Basin thermal plains including Fountain Paint Pots to Midway.

You can read more about the Lower and Upper Geyser Basin in previous posts.

While it can be refreshing to meander the thermal boardwalks in the rain, the heavy downpour made it difficult to do much off road sightseeing.

I continued to Old Faithful, where I’d booked a room at the historic Old Faithful Inn for one night.

Old Faithful is the heartbeat of Yellowstone – from the iconoic reliable geyser to the countless miles of boardwalks leading to hundreds of unique thermal features – the area around Old Faithful will always hold a piece of my heart.

I lived and worked at The Old Faithful Snowlodge in 2004 as a server in the Obsidian Dining Room. My summer living and working in Yellowstone continues to be one of the greatest gifts God has given me. Pulling into the Old Faithful area and finding a parking spot I couldn’t help but feel like I was coming home.

I arrived just after four-thirty and proceeded to unload my luggage and check into the Old Faithful Inn. This historic inn is 118 years old (As of 2022) and continues to be the crown jewel of National Park Lodges.

I was fortunate to get one of the historic rooms in the original inn. My cozy ‘cabin-esque’ room included soap shaped like a bear and towels and a bathroom to use in the communal showers down the hall.

While I wanted to walk the Upper Geyser Basin trail before dinner, the rain persisted and unfortunately I forgot to pack my rain coat.

I perused several of the General Stores, including the Old Faithful Gift Shop – indulging in a few souvenirs and also purchasing an umbrella.

The wait for dining in the Old Faithful Inn was booked up, but I was able to revisit my old stomping grounds at The Snowlodge’s Obsidian Dining Room – where I enjoyed a delicious Flathead (Montana Lake) Mountain Trout and savory molten lava gluten free cake for desert.

One of my favorite traditions at Old Faithful since my days working as a busser – has been to hideway in one of the Old Faithful Inn rocking chairs at night with a good book or crossword puzzle. My mom and I used to enjoy a glass of wine on the Old Faithful Deck at dusk – watching Old Faithful erupt even as day turned to night.

I enjoyed several eruptions of Old Faithful in the stillness of dusk, while I enjoyed a Shirley Temple and excellent book in the hallowed halls of the Old Faithful Inn.

Perfect place to pray and clear your mind as the fire place crackles and the hubbub of tourists quiets down.

If you want a great Yellowstone read…I spent three hours glued to this book:

Women in Wonderland

I fell asleep around 12 a.m., dreaming about bison and geysers and more adventures to come.

Tips for Old Faithful:

Where to stay:

Old Faithful Inn

Old Faithful Snowlodge

Old Faithful Lodge Cabins

Dining: lots of options from Geyser Grill, to General Store Grill and formal dining at Old Faithful Inn or Snowlodge

What to do:

Old Faithful is amazing and worth witnessing at least once, but the area around Old Faithful is so much more…walk the boardwalk system through the geyser basin – witnessing the grandeur of Castle Geyser, wonder of Grand Geyser and the peaceful solitude of the Firehole River.

The Old Faithful Visitor Center is a must stop – you can learn tons about park geology and get tips from park rangers on touring the Upper Geyser Basin and area hikes.

Old Faithful typically goes off every 90 minutes and you can usually set your watch for it’s eruption (within 10 to 20 minutes).

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